Yale | Mr. Army Infantry Officer
GMAT 730, GPA 2.83
MIT Sloan | Mr. Refinery Engineer
GMAT 700- will retake, GPA 3.87
Berkeley Haas | Ms. 10 Years Experience
GMAT To be taken, GPA 3.1
Stanford GSB | Mr. Singing Banking Lawyer
GMAT 720, GPA 110-point scale. Got 110/110 with honors
Yale | Ms. Social Impact AKS
GRE 315, GPA 7.56
Harvard | Mr. Political Consultant
GRE 337, GPA 3.85
Kellogg | Mr. Chief Product Officer
GMAT 740, GPA 77.53% (First Class with Distinction, Dean's List Candidate)
Said Business School | Mr. Across The Pond
GMAT 680, GPA 2.8
Wharton | Mr. Army & Consulting
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
Berkeley Haas | Mr. 360 Consultant
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
N U Singapore | Ms. Biomanager
GMAT 520, GPA 2.8
MIT Sloan | Mr. Low GPA Over Achiever
GMAT 700, GPA 2.5
Stanford GSB | Mr. Corp Finance
GMAT 740, GPA 3.75
Harvard | Mr. Improve Healthcare
GMAT 730, GPA 2.8
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Wake Up & Grind
GMAT 700, GPA 3.5
Darden | Mr. Fintech Nerd
GMAT 740, GPA 7.7/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Minority Champ
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Darden | Mr. Senior Energy Engineer
GMAT 710, GPA 2.5
Harvard | Mr. Merchant Of Debt
GMAT 760, GPA 3.5 / 4.0 in Master 1 / 4.0 in Master 2
Stanford GSB | Mr. Indian Telecom ENG
GRE 340, GPA 3.56
Stanford GSB | Ms. East Africa Specialist
GMAT 690, GPA 3.34
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Hanging By A Thread
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Mr. Nonprofit Social Entrepreneur
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Chicago Booth | Ms. Start-Up Entrepreneur
GRE 318 current; 324 intended, GPA 3.4
Duke Fuqua | Ms. Health Care Executive
GMAT 690, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. Professional Boy Scout
GMAT 660, GPA 3.83
IU Kelley | Mr. Construction Manager
GRE 680, GPA 3.02

2020’s First-Generation MBAs: The Bold, Brilliant & Big-Hearted


Quarter million dollar price tags weren’t the only aspect of business school that gave first-generation graduates pause. For some, the old insecurities of undergrad days returned as well. Why am I here? Do I measure up? What if I fail? Daniela Diaz asked these same questions when she returned to Arizona State for her MBA. Sure enough, the results turned out the same.

Daniela Diaz, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

“My biggest worry before starting my MBA was that I could not perform on par with my future classmates. I had a difficult time convincing myself that I was capable and deserving of my admission offer. I am happy to report I have exceeded my performance expectations.”

Now the education cycle has been renewed. In their formative years, these first-generation graduates were models, dancers, soldiers, athletes, and musicians. Natalia Eguez even managed to survive being hit by lightning! In the coming years, they will emerge as difference-making financiers, consultants, entrepreneurs, and c-suite executives. For now, they are students – pondering and exploring, formulating and testing…sometimes stumbling but always returning for more. In many cases, they remain the first among the family and friends – an honor to defend as much as a debt to repay. For those first-generation candidates intent on following their path, these students have some words of advice.


Greg Frey, a Georgia Tech Scheller second-year, urges future students to not dwell on details. They have “an uncanny way of working themselves out,” he cautions. Wharton’s Naeem Muhammed advice is to focus on personal well-being over trying to be everything for everyone. “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” he writes. At the same time, Mauricio Serna pleads for first gens to embrace their heritage.

“I urge you to never compromise your background or hide your story to “fit-in.” Be bold, take risks, share your perspective and stand out. You’re guaranteed to thrive in life by doing so.”

Chris Vettese, University of Toronto

Being first also requires maintaining a difficult balance. The first is told not to accept limits, to bounce back after setbacks and celebrate small victories. ‘Don’t be afraid to ask for help,’ they’ll hear, ‘people are happy to lend a hand.’ Along the same lines: they are cautioned to remain humble. After all, first-generation students often don’t know what they don’t know.

“Be curious and ask questions to anyone and everyone,” writes the University of Toronto’s Chris Vettese. “There really are no dumb questions, and most people that you talk to will be more than willing to help you out. There are pieces of information that other people might take for granted that you are not aware of, and the only way to uncover that is to keep a high level of curiosity to learn as much as you can from everyone that you meet.”

Above all else, adds Ana Flavia Dias, never give up.

“It will be tough. You’ll often be the only one at school and work. And when you get home, you will also be the only one. You’ll feel alone. You’ll have the unique experience of not belonging to either world and belonging to both worlds at the same time. You won’t feel understood in either world. You’ll have to work harder than your peers. The list of obstacles can feel endless. But someone has to be first, and you have the opportunity to make sure that someone is you.”

This summer, P&Q reached out to over 30 top MBA programs. Each business school was asked to pick a first-generation college graduate who beat the odds to become successful professionals and class leaders. This year’s First Generation story profiles MBA students whose courage, perseverance, growth, and achievement demonstrate the very best in business and education. From defining events to school financing strategies, here are the stories of 40 stars in their own words…

Click on MBA student links to access profiles. 

MBA StudentBusiness SchoolHometownUndergrad ProgramLast Employer
Daniela DiazArizona State (W. P. Carey)Bellflower, CAArizona State UniversityBecton Dickinson
Martin Montes de OcaArizona State (W. P. Carey)Sedona, AZArizona State UniversityAccion
Jennifer Lopez RamirezU.C. Berkeley (Haas)Los Angeles, CAUniversity of California, BerkeleyCalifornia State Assembly
Ankush BatraCarnegie Mellon (Tepper)Jaipur, IndiaIndian Institute of Technology GuwahatiCapital One
Mickey ColomboCarnegie Mellon (Tepper)Pompton Lakes, NJUniversity of Rhode IslandVirtualHealth
Ari Noah DermanCarnegie Mellon (Tepper)Melville, NYUniversity of MiamiAcceleration
Nandita JayaCarnegie Mellon (Tepper)Bhagalpur, Bihar, IndiaBirla Institute of Technology, MesraMicrosoft
Kwaku FrimpongUniversity of Chicago (Booth)Bronx, NYProvidence CollegeIntersection Media
Albert James RabagoColumbia Business SchoolPacoima, CAUSCWalt Disney Company
Kori HillCornell University (Johnson)Baltimore, MDUniversity of MarylandFreddie Mac
Jessica AhnDartmouth College (Tuck)Los Angeles, CAUCLAAccenture
Malena Lopez-SoteloDuke University (Fuqua)Dublin, GAUniversity of GeorgiaStacey Abrams for Governor
Ivan IbarraEmory University (Goizueta)Duncan, OKOklahoma State UniversityCSAA Insurance Group
Ivy NguyenEmory University (Goizueta)Quynh Luu, Nghe An, VietnamForeign Trade UniversityAmerican Airlines
Marthaline CooperGeorgetown University (McDonough)Providence, RIWinthrop UniversityInovalon
Eric FreyGeorgia Tech (Scheller)Fort Lauderdale, FLGeorgia TechManhattan Associates
Grace StewartGeorgia Tech (Scheller)Morehead City, NCUniversity of South CarolinaiVision
Mauricio SernaHarvard Business SchoolWeston, FLGeorgetown UniversityCommercial Real Estate Exchange
Ashley JohnsonIndiana University (Kelley)Martinez, CAUniversity of South CarolinaFeld Entertainment
Jesse N. PizarroIndiana University (Kelley)Levittown, NYPurdue UniversityDefense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS)
Alyssa BlankenshipUniversity of Michigan (Ross)Donkin, CanadaYale UniversitySWIFT
Kevin VargasUniversity of Minnesota (Carlson)Round Lake Beach, ILYale UniversityMedtronic
Olga TimirgalievaMIT (Sloan)Tashkent, UzbekistanFlorida Southern CollegeMcNichols Company
Daniel RodriguezNew York University (Stern)Havana, CubaThe New School (Mannes Conservatory)Greater New York Academy
Rose TelusNorth Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)Cap-Haitien HaitiUniversity of Louisiana at LafayettePetram Consulting Group
Natalia EguezNorthwestern University (Kellogg)Santa Cruz, BoliviaStanford UniversityU.S. Peace Corps
Emilia LispiNotre Dame (Mendoza)Scranton, PAUniversity of MiamiTreasure Valley Family YMCA
Casey SherrodRice University (Jones)Crosby, TXUniversity of HoustonU.S. Army
Areeba KamalStanford GSBKarachi, PakistanMount Holyoke CollegeApple
Jessica Reese-WhiteUniversity of Texas (McCombs)Bronx, NYRensselaer Polytechnic InstituteGoogle
Chris VetteseUniversity of Toronto (Rotman)Toronto, CanadaQueen’s UniversityAccenture
Carmen Andrea ChávezUCLA (Anderson)San Diego, CAUCLAGeneral Mills
Marleny De LeónVanderbilt University (Owen)Tucson, AZNorthern Arizona UniversityU.S.-Italy Fulbright Commission
Ana Flavia DiasUniversity of Virginia (Darden)Anapolis, BrazilU.C.-BerkeleyFacebook
Duckenson JosephWashington University (Olin)Port-au-Prince, HaitiUniversity of IllinoisDell Technologies
Anthony DePinaWharton SchoolBoston, MARochester Institute of TechnologyGoldman Sachs
Naeem MuhammedWharton SchoolAccra, GhanaDePauw UniversityGoldman Sachs
Leydiana MunguiaWharton SchoolDalton, GAUniversity of GeorgiaBiden for President
Jamaal WrightWharton SchoolHouston, TXUniversity of TexasImpact Capital Managers
Andrés Lin-ShiuYale School of ManagementMontevideo, UruguayUniversity of IllinoisMarch Capital Management


DON’T MISS: 2018 First Gen: Inspiring Stories Of MBAs Who Beat The Odds